Turkey’s Marmara earthquake commemorated on 19th anniversary
The victims of the 1999 Marmara earthquake – the most devastating earthquake in the history of modern Turkey which killed at least 17,000 people – were commemorated in northwestern Turkey on Aug. 17, as concerns over a potential disaster of similar magnitude that is expected to hit Turkey continue to mount.
Locals in the provinces of Kocaeli, Yalova, and Sakarya gathered for commemoration ceremonies to mark the 19th year of the 7.4-magnitude Marmara earthquake that originated in the Gölcük district of the northwestern province of Kocaeli, which lasted just 45 seconds but led to the death of 17,480 people.
In the Gölcük district of Kocaeli, crowds gathered early on Aug. 17 in front of the Earthquake Monument built on the Kavaklı coastline and observed a moment’s silence at 3:02 a.m., when the massive temblor caught many people in their sleep, overall affecting around 16 million people at various levels.
The attendees left wreaths at the Earthquake Monument before reading prayers and throwing carnations into the sea.
Delivering a speech to the crowd, Gölcük Governor Mustafa Altıntaş said there were “lessons” to be taken from the “disaster of the century.” “Citizens need to fulfill every kind of duty to make sure the structures they plan to build are durable. Works that we’ll undertake from now on will be related to increase our people’s awareness,” Altıntaş was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu Agency.
In the northwestern province of Yalova, where the disaster also created immeasurable damage, locals gathered at 03:02 a.m. at the Earthquake Monument, which was built on the wreck of a building that collapsed during the earthquake.
Gathered crowds at the ceremony, including Yalova Mayor Vefa Salman, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial head Yusuf Ziya Öztabak, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) provincial head Bahar Doğan, and CHP Yalova deputy Özcan Özel, left flowers in front of the concrete blocks on which the victims’ names are written.
In the Sakarya province, meanwhile, a ceremony was organized by an alumni association representing the graduates of imam hatip religious high schools in the province. Locals gathered at 03:02 a.m. in front of the municipality building of Adapazarı — the capital of the province.
Meanwhile, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum on Aug. 17 released a message marking the anniversary of the earthquake, saying: “We aim to renew 7.5 million structures that carry the risk [of collapse in the event of a major quake] throughout the country [with urban transformation].”
“We aim at minimizing damages that will occur in possible natural disasters, especially quakes and at tackling unguided and irregular urbanization problems through settlements which are in harmony with environment and have unique architectural properties,” Kurum was also quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.